Concision and clarity are crucial to excellent legal writing. Most courts have strict page limits for briefs filed with the court, and your legal writing assignments will also have strict page limits. Moreover, when you enter the legal working world, your employer, colleagues, and clients will want you to deliver your advice to them as directly and concisely as possible. If you ramble on and on, or your meaning is unclear, they will stop reading. 1L legal writing students often struggle to stay within page limits, and ask me for advice about making their writing more concise without sacrificing substantive content. My advice essentially boils down to good editing.
To help you develop good editing skills, I have added to the site a blogroll of good websites of advice about how to write well. These sites give advice on writing concisely, using correct grammar, and using correct punctuatiion (for example, the important difference in meaning between commas and semi-colons!). Some of the sites include practice exercises on how to edit your writing for concision — that is, getting the same idea across in fewer words.
One of the most common problems of beginning legal writers is their tendency to write paragraphs that contains several sequential sentences that say essentially the same thing, but worded differently. One of the most effective ways to make a document shorter is to read the document looking specifically for such redundant sentences. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many exercises for practicing this skill (though the article on “Combining
Sentences and Editing Paragraphs” linked to in the blogroll does contain some). But I will keep looking!